This time of year, the discussion of homework of course seems to come up everywhere you go. ┬áIn the grocery stores, school events, and even in the Wall Street Journal – Too much, too early, too long, too inane, too disconnected, too confusing, and on and on go the complaints from parents and kids everywhere. A kindergarten parent I know was shocked to learn they had an hour of sit down work each evening. A 6th grade parent I know stated 2-3 hours was the norm. Nightly.

We are lucky this year, across the board, we seem to be in situations where the teachers agree with us that busy-work homework doesn’t do anything and that learning takes place everywhere.

Our 4th grade teacher told the kids the goal this year was not to worry. She wants them to actually learn NOT to worry. It’s a brilliant message to send to a room full of 9 and 10 year olds. She told the parents at back to school night that family life takes priority. That’s a brilliant message to send to a room full of parents in the second week of school.

Our 6th grader has homework each night but it seems to make sense. Each night he is assigned reading and then he’s to write a paragraph about what he read. It’s lovely. Sure he has some math work too but that seems pertinent and he seems to be able to get most of it done during school hours – with only a tiny bit left by the time he gets home.

Our kindergarten team has decided on monthly family projects which I love and which we had once before with a second grade teacher. They are to be completed over the course of a month – together. Not by the parents only or by the child only but all together – siblings too if they want to help. The result with our first family project was the fourth grader stepping in as mentor and helper to the kindergartner. Family time created. Sibling connection fostered. Project completed with more beauty than could be imagined.

Even our high schooler seems unaffected by homework this year what with a study hall each day and a long bus ride during which she catches up on all her required reading.

The teachers seem to get it this year. They seem to understand what the whole child needs – that playtime and downtime and fresh air time and family time are crucial to the child for integration of all they learned that day.

If your teachers don’t get it and your child and family seem overwhelmed with work, perhaps its time for parents to take it into their own hands. When you see that busy work is just that, when you see that a child can’t possibly learn anything more when they are hitting the wall and crashing hard, when you see that sleep would be the best learning tool they could possibly have at that moment in time or fresh air or just laying on the front porch staring up at the sky, say enough.

  • Write a note to the teacher explaining the situation.
  • Work with the teacher and have a discussion about the goals behind homework. They may be doing it because it’s all they know. Share your views.
  • Talk to your school about shifting to a school wide homework policy.
  • If your teacher insists on pages being completed, do the homework for them. Make sure they know the material then send your child out to play, to bed or wherever you think they need to be.
  • Remember that you are the parent and you actually know what is best for your child.
  • Ask for homework packets that can be completed over the course of a week and more likely to be done with the ebb and flow of family life.
  • Make all homework a family project. Sit together and work cooperatively. We work cooperatively all the time as a society – do it with homework too.
  • Forward articles to your teacher about how homework hasn’t actually been proven to be effective.
  • Start a revolution in your school. Ban together with other parents. Write the principal. Involve the PTA
  • Choose a different kind of schooling if you can. Homeschool. Co-op school. Start a charter. Look around and see that you have options.
  • Accept a lower grade. So what if your 4th grader gets a B instead of an A. Does it really matter at that point? College won’t be looking at your early elementary grades. Allow the wholeness of the child to take precedence over a grade on a piece of paper. I know this isn’t easy but think about it, if we teach our child that grades are the priority, what are we teaching them about intrinsic value?

What are some things your family has done to make homework easier? More family friendly? I’d love to know.